Constructive criticism on style, in-character, out-of-character issues, believability of dialog, and where improvements can be made and how are encouraged and welcomed!
I can't sell these characters. I'd like to find out if I might be able to sell a few of my own later on though. I started this as an exercise in writing to see if I should pursue a long-forgotten dream. Now, whether I ever sell a word, I can't let this go. It's just too much fun. So if you enjoy what I've written, please take time to leave a review. I know I'll keep writing for the fun of it. But I am going to try to make it pay along the way. And proof that someone is reading it is a real ego stroker!
A Spider in Nerima
A Ranma ½ / Spider-man fusion
All I Need Is A Little Discipline
"I'll use the front this time," he wryly thought as he twisted the bell, producing a melodious 'chirrup.'
Presently the door opened to reveal a tall, middle-aged, mustachioed man with jet black, shoulder-length hair.
"Yes, may I help you?" Soun Tendo asked as he eyed the young westerner.
"Hopefully," the stranger replied in Japanese thick with western accent. "Are you Soun Tendo?"
"Good. Tendo-sama, I'm Ben Reilly and I think I'd like to enroll in your school."
"Really?" Tendo visibly brightened. "New students are always welcome and you are fortunate. New classes are forming now and they'll be starting next week. Come in and we'll get you signed up.
"I am honored that you would seek us out Reilly-sama," Tendo continued as the pair proceeded to the dojo office and training hall. "We don't get many gaijin students. In fact, you are the first. How did you hear of us?"
"I've been seeking instruction in the martial arts for a while now, Tendo-sama, but none of the dojos I've tried have been able to challenge me," Reilly went on. "Sensei Takahashi said I should try you."
"Sensei Takahashi of the Bandai Dojo? They were not able to challenge you?" Tendo's head swam. Bandai Dojo was one of the most respected martial arts schools in all of Tokyo. Tetsuo Takahashi was the senior instructor.
"That's right," Reilly replied. "I got a lot of street-fighting experience in the states, but I don't have any formal instruction in the art except for the short times I've tried to study here and in Europe. Those haven't amounted to much. Every other place I've tried said it would be impossible for them to train me."
"If you will forgive me, Reilly-sama, but that is very hard for me to believe," Soun Tendo said skeptically. "There are many fine schools in Tokyo who are headed by absolute masters in their particular discipline of the art. Most of our local dojos exceed anything that can be found in the states and Bandai Dojo is one of the best." Tendo said. "If this is true, why do you think I will be able to help you?"
"I don't know that you can. But I hope. It's important that I move beyond what I can do with, uh, natural ability," the young man said. "Maybe we can save us both some time if we move to the practice hall and evaluate each other. You are the head sensei right?"
"I am, but we have many options here at Tendo's," Master Tendo replied, recognizing the courteously veiled challenge. "Since I have no other appointments this afternoon, I will 'evaluate' your claims Reilly-san."
Moments later the pair were in the practice hall bowing to each other. Without ceremony the evaluation began. No exaggerated cry broke the silence of the practice hall, only the scuff of swift feet on the floor and soft grunts of exertion. Ten minutes later, Soun Tendo raised his hand for a pause in the action.
"Your abilities are truly phenomenal, Reilly-san. Though I have not been able to land a single blow, I believe I can help you," Tendo said. "I have at least two instructors who outstrip my abilities. They should be able to at least sharpen your skills.
"In the mean time, I believe we should start a practice and meditation regimen that will help you to control you ki far better and perceive the ki presence of your opponents with greater clarity. Your method is sound, but what you are doing is mostly reaction. And judging from your desire to improve, you've obviously encountered someone who found your weakness and exploited it. What you need is discipline. Am I correct?"
"That's pretty much it," Reilly responded dryly.
"Never have I encountered anyone with your potential. I would hold it an inestimable honor to assist you in reaching that potential," Soun Tendo concluded.
"Sensei Tendo, you are the first who even wanted to try," Reilly smiled. Though he hardly broke a sweat during the 'evaluation,' it pleased the young American that the older man surprised him on two different occasions during the sparring session. It was two more than the finest public instructors in the rest of Tokyo had been able to do.
"I see potential in you too, sensei," Reilly thought, "and I hope your other instructors are up to the job."
Five years later, half a world away:
A pinpoint of green light flitted through the darkness behind Peter Parker's eyelids. It beckoned him, called him, tantalized him. As it grew, the light gained a voice. It was a voice he was all too familiar with: the Green Goblin's voice.
At first he couldn't make out the words. But the light grew stronger, the voice clearer. Growing, it became the Goblin's face, leering, laughing,and mocking him.
"I've seen to it you have nothing to go back to Peter... You're leaving with me tonight... No need to say goodbye... I've taken care of that for you... You'll be my heir, worthy to carry on my legacy... Not like those other disappointments... " The Goblin's insane cackle reverberated in Parker's head.
As the maniacally laughter faded, the light changed and the visage lost definition. Its color shifted from sickly luminescent green to a warm auburn glow. Its features changed, shifting into a woman's face. It was a strangely familiar face framed with auburn hair. A braided pigtail trailed over one shoulder.
"Mary Jane?" he managed to ask through battered lips.
The face began to fade. "No, brother, not even close," the woman's voice responded, as darkness swallowed it up.
Ben Reilly was tickled with himself. He relaxed at a table near the door of Ucchan's Okonomiyaki shop and watched the young woman behind the grill add the ingredients he'd requested to his pie. How had he not noticed before now how beautiful and delicate oriental women could be?
Things had gone well at Tendo's. Most heartening was his evaluation of the head instructor. Tendo's performance was similar to other sensei Reilly had approached since his arrival in Japan with one exception. Toward the end of their short sparring session, Tendo had done something that nearly outflanked the almost precognizant spider-sense Reilly relied on to avoid attacks. Twice the martial artist seemed to "project" a threat in one direction while attacking from another.
Reilly picked up on the feints fairly easily, but they distracted him nonetheless. And Tendo's analysis of his motivation was dead on. In his recollection of his last battle as Spider-man, Reilly was almost defeated by high-speed computer calculated attacks by the Robot Master and his mechanical henchmen. So close was the match with the Robot Master that when Norman Osborn, the Green Goblin, showed up, the exhausted Reilly succumbed easily to his arch-enemy's attack.
The memories sobered Reilly as the lovely young chef delivered his okonomiyaki. It wasn't a New York style pizza by any stretch, but at least she tried. It was tasty in a different sort of way, but the memories took his mind off the enjoyment he should have gotten from the food and its cook.
"If Stromm could design a program that analyzed my reactions and predicted what I would do, someone else can too," the displaced super-hero mused. And he recalled his "big brother" Peter Parker talking about having the same sort of trouble with a female martial arts grand-master when he'd had a run-in with the Oriental Mafia known as The Hand.
The young westerner paid his bill, complimenting the chef as he left. He knew he'd back for the food, and the view.
The sun was setting as Reilly slipped his key in the lock of the small apartment he rented. After dropping his duffel, he settled into one of the living room's two chairs and pulled out a copy of Watchman Nee's The Spiritual Man.
"I wonder if any of this even applies to me," he said aloud. "The Jews might even call me a golem," he laughed hollowly. He tossed the book on the low coffee table in front of him and laid a black-bound copy of the Bible next to it. "Well let's see how it lines up tonight." He settled into reading. Every so often he would reach for the Bible and check a reference. Reilly spent about an hour on his spiritual quest, before turning to the more practical urgency of preparing for his first day on his new job.
A couple of hours later, Reilly stood and stretched. He put the books away and looked at the clock. It was only 10 o'clock.
"Think I'll have a swing around the neighborhood," he muttered and headed for the john. A little while later a masked and gray-clad figure swung away from the tree obscuring the view of the apartment's bathroom window.
The night was quiet in residential Nerima, but as he moved toward the more urban sections of Tokyo the atmosphere of the city became more ominous. The lights were brighter on the commercial thoroughfares, but the alleys were darker.
Despite finding that Tokyo and its surrounding communities didn't have the culture of violence he'd known in New York, it didn't take Reilly long to spot a group of about eight youths shadowing a couple who had emerged from a local eatery. "Think I'll just tag along here," Reilly thought. "This might be innocent, but then again... "
As the couple crossed the street into one of the numerous parks in the area, the mixed group of young people followed.
The young couple, interested only in each other, never seemed to notice their entourage. Soon enough they found a bench in a more seclude part of the park and started to kiss. Part of the following gang took a loop path and was soon coming up on the couple from the opposite direction as their associates made a more direct approach.
Reilly wasn't surprised when one of the youngsters made a threatening advance toward the pair. He decided to take out the gang's reinforcements before tackling the main problem. The four who had taken the loop path were soon gagged and webbed to trees. "The fewer involved, the fewer people to get hurt," Reilly calculated. The sound of switchblades signaled the mugging was getting ugly as the second-string Spider-man negated half the perceived threat.
But things went 180 degrees from the direction Ben Reilly anticipated as he swung toward the couple and their attackers. Almost in unison, the lovers drew guns from under their jackets and started shooting at the four youths confronting them. The leader was dead before he hit the ground, the back of his head exploding as the bullet that entered his eye came out the back of his skull.
The girl's shot put a second attacker on the ground before Reilly recovered from his shock and webbed up both guns. "Crap. It's Death Wish Tokyo style," he muttered. "Why couldn't it be an everyday mugging?" The remaining would-be muggers fled into the night as Reilly secured the lethal pair to the bench where they'd set their trap. A terse phone call from a nearby pay phone brought the police.
"Every where I go, people are insane," the masked vigilante watched from within the darkness of a tree as the authorities removed the couple and the bodies. "Some are more insane than others," he thought as he swung away, headed for home.
As he left the metro districts and moved into the more residential areas, Reilly had to take to bounding across the rooftops whenever there were no structures tall enough to get a decent web line swing.
At the borders of Nerima, Reilly encountered his second adventure of the night. As he landed on the roof line of his own building, a movement at a window in an adjacent apartment building caught his attention.
A black mass was easing out of a half open window that opened on the courtyard separating the two apartment buildings. As he watched the mass, about the size of a laundry sack, moved along the second story balcony headed for another set of windows.
A line of laundry connected the two buildings at the second balcony. The tree hiding the open window to his apartment was just ahead.
The black bag seemed to settle down on the second balcony and the clothesline began to move. Presently, Reilly realized that items of women's underwear were disappearing from the line of laundry.
"A panty thief? You got to be kidding me," he laughed. The noise was enough to get him noticed. The thief, still not visible, froze. The scene was a picture of tranquility. A soft breeze moved the trees and the laundry.
Suddenly the bag seemed to leap of its own accord from the balcony toward the tree growing next to the building.
"Oh, no you don't," Reilly muttered. A web line snaked out from his overturned palm. The bag never made the tree. With a flick of his wrist, the transplanted spider-man twirled the sack of pilfered pantaloons around the clothesline. Some of the contents spilled and drifted toward the courtyard below.
"My pretty treasures," a plaintive wail broke the peace of the night.
Reilly's spider-sense began to buzz as a black blur, half his size, rocketed out of the foliage. It landed where he'd been crouching seconds before, but was easily evaded by the spider-powered young man.
"How?" Reilly heard the panty-thief mutter before the gnome-like figure rounded on him.
A web line fluttered uselessly through the space the gnome had occupied and it was Reilly's turn to wonder how he missed.
The black blur set off his spider sense again, this time only a fraction of a second before a small foot caught him in the seat of his pants. The kick launched the young hero off the roof and into the middle of the street in front of the apartment complex. He twisted in midair to get his feet under him for the landing and was back on the rooftop within seconds.
But seconds were enough for the gnome-like panty-raider. Both he and his trophies were missing when Reilly got back to the scene.
The night was a weight on Peter Parker's heart as he swung north over the rooftops and through the sparkling canyons of Manhattan. The skyscrapers petered out, forcing him to lower altitudes. Nothing intervened to divert the scarlet and blue clad man, known to the world as Spider-man, from his grim objective -- the George Washington Bridge.
Despite his personal heaviness, the night was spectacular. Clear and bright, a full moon added a silver sheen to the shadows cast by the upturned lights of the city. "Just like 11 years ago," he thought.
The somber parade of Parker's thoughts slowed his approach to the bridge. Spider-man hated to patrol this section of the Big Apple if he didn't have a reason. The bridge was the scene of one of his greatest failures. On this night, 11 years ago, he tried to save the life of his first great love -- and failed.
Gwen Stacy died that night at the hands of the Green Goblin. For years Parker believed he was responsible for her death. In his desperate effort to stop her fall from the bridge tower, Parker thought he had broken the girl's neck with a web-line meant to save her. It wasn't until six years later he learned the Goblin had snapped her neck before tossing her off the bridge's New Jersey tower. She never had a chance. Neither did he.
The bridge was a monument to his grief and failure. It added power to the merciless goad of guilt that drove him to act when others faded into the background.With great power, comes great responsibility. In the years since that night, Spider-man had gradually turned the anniversary into an annual pilgrimage. He'd visit Stacy's grave and end with a late-night trip to the scene of his defeat. It had gotten easier as time spread a salve over the pain of the past.
For Spider-man, a leering reminder of that fateful night haunted his present. Norman Osborn, the Green Goblin, was still out there plotting revenge. He always did. No matter how many times they fought. No matter how many times Spider-man beat him, no matter how many times his universe seemed to reset itself. It was only a matter of time before he struck at Parker's life again and Spider-man knew it, dreaded it. Yes. He dreaded it because each new attack ramped up the diabolical violence, and reached out to touch the people he loved. Those poor souls webbed to him by the chain of fate.